Polymath and non-binary poet Kae Tempest

Making their Canberra debut as part of WorldPride, gifted non-binary artist Kae Tempest brings their extraordinary spoken-word performance to the Canberra Theatre for one night only.
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Making their Canberra debut as part of WorldPride, gifted British polymath, non-binary, poet, recording artist, novelist, and playwright Kae Tempest brings their extraordinary spoken-word performance to the Canberra Theatre for one night only. 

We chatted to Dan Clarke (Head of Programming at Canberra Theatre Centre and Festival Creative Director of WorldPride Arts) about Kae Tempest coming to the Canberra Theatre and her work.

Why did you want to bring Kae Tempest to Canberra Theatre Centre?

Dan Clarke:
Kae is a truly unique artist – political, poetic and powerful. I’ve followed their work since 2013 when I saw their epic work in Edinburgh Brand New Ancients. I’ve seen them live a number of times now and the energy in the room when they perform is electric. Totally mesmerising and charged. I wanted more than anything for Canberrans to experience this extraordinary artist, so when we found out they were coming to Australia, we approached them to play Canberra too. Fortunately for us they were very keen to do it. 

What is unique about Kae?

Dan Clarke:
They are a poet. A rapper. A truth teller. They are a change maker. They are a playwright and a novelist. They can fill out a large outdoor venue and also perform up-close in intimate venues. They radiate a power and an energy that is both exhilarating and intoxicating. Their words can pierce, enrage and empower. They are vulnerable and hopeful and complex. Their first two solo albums Everybody Down (2014) and Let Them Eat Chaos(2017) respectively, were nominated for the Mercury Prize.

Their third, The Book of Traps and Lessons (2019) was shortlisted for Best Album. They have released several poetry collections, a Sunday Times-bestselling novel The Bricks That Built the Houses (2017) and the book-length essay On Connection (2020), a meditation on the power of creative connection. Their play Paradise (2021) premiered at the National Theatre in LondonThe Line is a Curve (2022) is their fourth album.

What else can you tell us about Kae?

Dan Clarke:
Kae spent their childhood in Lewisham, South London. It was early on they discovered their love for music and storytelling. As a young person, they worked at a record store and would rap for amazed people on the street. What made Kae’s performances unique, even at this time, was the narrative behind the music. It was a transformative time for Kae and a lot fell into place.

What can audiences expect?

Dan Clarke:
Kae released a new album last year called The Line is a Curve.  It’s their most personal project to date, which is saying a lot for someone already known for telling it like it is. It is a call for connection, which is something you really feel in an audience with Kae Tempest - connected to them and each other.

They will be performing songs from the album which has been described as “sensitive and punchy” by The Guardian and “a sentimental, prophetic, mimetic, and worldbuilding work that blends moody electronica with elements of neo-soul and grimey hip-hop” by Pitchfork. There will be poetry, spoken word and story-telling, and powerful music. In our intimate Playhouse space I’m sure this performance is going to be unforgettable. Prepare to be moved!

Kae Tempest performs at Canberra Theatre Centre on Monday 20 February, 7pm in the Playhouse.


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